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GWALIOR
A giant rock and natural fortress command the plain, towering above the garden-land. Two roads, hewn in the stone, lead by easy ascents to the top. All along the rock wall bas-reliefs are carved, warriors riding on elephants, and Kalis in graceful attitudes. There are openings to the green depths of reservoirs, small temples, arcades sheltering idols bowered in fresh flowers. Arches in the Ja?n style of architecture span the road, and at the summit, beyond the inevitable drawbridge, stands Mandir, the palace of King Pal, a dazzling structure of yellow stone, looking as if it had grown on the hill-rock that it crowns with beauty. Towers carrying domed lanterns spring skywards above the massive walls. The decoration is playfully light, carvings alternating with inlaid tiles; and all round the lordly and solemn edifice wheels a procession of blue ducks on a yellow ground in earthenware.

Under the archway by which we entered a cow crossed our path, her head decked with a tiara of peacock's feathers, and went her way alone for a[Pg 200] walk at an easy pace. Within the palace is a maze of corridors, and pierced carving round every room fretting the daylight. An inner court is decorated with earthenware panels set in scroll-work of stone. A slender colonnade in white marble is relieved against the yellow walls, and below the roof, in the subdued light of the deeper angles, the stone, the marble, the porcelain, take hues of sapphire, topaz, and enamel, reflections as of gold and mother-of-pearl. In a pavilion is a little divan within three walls, all pierced and carved; it suggests a hollow pearl with its sides covered with embroidery that dimly shows against the sheeny smoothness of the marble. The effect is so exquisitely soft, so indescribably harmonious, that the idea of size is lost, and the very materials seem transfigured into unknown substances. One has a sense as of being in some fairy palace, enclosed in a gem excavated by gnomes—a crystal of silk and frost, as it were, bright with its own light.

The rock is girt with a belt of walls, and in the citadel, besides Mandir, with its outbuildings and tanks, there is a whole town of palaces and temples, which are being demolished little by little to make way for barracks.

[Pg 201]

In front of these stolid-looking sepoys, their black heads and hands conspicuous in their yellow uniforms, are drilled to beat of drum, marking every step and movement.

Adinath, a Ja?n temple, is roofed with huge blocks of stone. The airy architecture is a medley of balconies, of pierced panels, of arcades in squares, in lozenges, in octagons; the two stories, one above the other, are on totally different plans, and along every wall, on every column and every balustrade runs a fatiguing superfluity of ornament, figures and arabesques repeated on the stone, of which not an inch is left plain.

The roof, upheld by a double row of stone blocks set on end, and somewhat atilt, weighs on the building, which is already giving way; and the next monsoon will destroy this marvel of the Ja?n to spare the trouble of military constructors—the builders of barracks.

Another temple, Sas Bahu, likewise elaborately carved under a roof too heavy for it, has a terrace overhanging the hill, whence there is a view over Lashkar, the new palace, gleaming white among the huge trees of the park.

At our feet lay old Gwalior, sacked again and again, and as often rebuilt out of its own ruins;[Pg 202] and now the princely residences, all of marble wrought in almost transparent lacework, serve to shelter wandering cattle.

One mosque alone, a marvel of workmanship, its stones pierced with a thousand patterns, remains intact amid the Indian dwellings built, all round the sacred spot, of the remains of ancient magnificence, of which, ere long, nothing will be left standing.

A fortified wall encloses Lashkar, the residence of the Maharajah of Gwalior; the bridges, which form part of the enclosure crossing the river that flows through the estate, have thick bars filling up the arches.

On entering the park the cocked turbans of the bodyguard again reminded us of the hats of the French Guards.

Heavy coaches with solid wheels, hermetically covered with red stuff patterned with white, were bringing home the invisible but noisy ladies of the zenana.

The garden, which is very extensive and laid out in beds carefully crammed with common flowers, has Jablochkoff lamps at every turning. It is traversed by a little narrow-gauge railway, and[Pg 203] the toy train is kept under a vault of the brand-new, spotless white palace.

The Maharajah was out, at his devotions; I could see everything. Up a staircase with a gilt paper and gilt banisters, leading to rooms where crystal lustres hang like tears above Oxford Street furniture, and lovely chromo-lithographs in massive and glittering frames.

In the forecourt a cast-metal nymph presides over a sham-bronze fountain.

The south-western side of the great rock of Gwalior is hewn into temples sheltering gigantic statues of Tirthankar; there are the usual bas-reliefs all over the walls, idols squatting under canopies and pagodas, slender columns supporting arches, standing out in contrast with the ochre-coloured stone. Other temples, vast halls as at Ellora—a vale of pagodas, "the happy valley"—have all disappeared under the picks of engineers, to make a dusty road to the new town of bungalows all adobe and straw thatch.

As the sun sank the citadel absorbed the gold and purple glory, and looked as though it were of some translucent half-fused metal; the towers and temples with their decoration of tiles blazed[Pg 204] against the pure sky. High over Mandir a little balcony with spindle columns, overhanging the precipice at a giddy height, caught the last rays of Surya, and flashed with a gem-like gleam above Gwalior, which was already shrouded in the blue haze of night.


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